WADE ST. ONGE

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

APS: "The 'True Spirit' of Vatican II"


A few years ago, when I was at Daily Mass one day, I found myself directly behind a gentleman who often sat in close proximity to me. The cantor that day decided to sing the Agnus Dei in Latin. The gentleman in front of me grumbled, “so much for Vatican II”. Having become rather accustomed to correcting people who cite Vatican II without having themselves read the documents, I leaned over and softly replied, “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, paragraph 36.” That upset him, and he grumbled something back. A young father who often attended the same Mass witnessed this, and he intervened and told us we had to shake hands before receiving Communion. So that was the end of the conversation.

I knew this because by this time, I had read the documents cover-to-cover three times. The first time was for a booklet I wrote called “The True Spirit of Vatican II”, in which I identified 50 issues on which the Council actually contradicted what many said was in the "spirit of Vatican II" and I presented excerpts from the documents to demonstrate it. It was written in response to such misunderstandings – which I realized by the time I got to seminary were rather widespread. I still see such misunderstandings – I always chuckle when I see someone call for married priests “in the spirit of Vatican II”. I know such people have only an impression of what Vatican II is (and a mistaken one) rather than first-hand familiarity through reading it.

This little booklet has now been incorporated into my manuscript, The New and The Old: Re-Implementing Vatican II Anew – the outline of which can be found here: http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com/2010/05/outline-new-and-old.html. The 50 issues specifically have become Chapter 7. But I would like to share a few selected issues from the original booklet (which was slightly revised for the manuscript). Perhaps you have encountered and heard some of these? Here goes:

Issue 1: "The idea that Jesus is equally present at Mass in the priest presider, the Scriptures read, the body of believers, and in the Eucharist". This is a misinterpretation of the council documents. Vatican II said: "[Jesus] is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister . . . but especially under the eucharistic species . . . He is present in His word . . . He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings" (SC, 7). Hence, we see that Jesus is present "especially", or in a special way, in the Eucharist. So the movement of the tabernacle from the center of the sanctuary to Blessed Sacrament chapels, and the reorientation of seating in a circular formation, so that the people face and focus on each other, takes away from the centrality of the Eucharist at the Mass. This was stressed elsewhere: "[Catholics should help others to] receive the sacraments frequently and developing in them piety, especially Eucharistic devotion" (AA, 17). Properly interpreting and citing Vatican II's description of the Mass as font and apex of the Christian life (cited later), the Catechism of the Holy See calls Eucharist made present at the Eucharistic Sacrifice "the source and summit of the Christian life" (CCC 1324). Hence, the Eucharist should be the focus of our attention at Mass, and the center of our faith: "No Christian community, however, is built up unless it has its basis and center in the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist; from this, therefore, all education to the spirit of community must take its origin" (PO, 6); "The Most Blessed Eucharist contains the entire spiritual boon of the Church, that is, Christ himself, our Pasch and Living Bread, by the action of the Holy Spirit through his very flesh vital and vitalizing, giving life to men who are thus invited and encouraged to offer themselves, their labors and all created things, together with him. In this light, the Eucharist shows itself as the source and the apex of the whole work of preaching the Gospel" (PO, 5).

Issue 4: "Liturgical abuse, or not being faithful to the rubrics or the general instructions of the Missal in offering the Mass". According to Vatican II, any violation of the rubrics or general instructions is improper: "Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop . . . the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops . . . Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority" (SC, 22). As we see, only the Pope can decide in the end how the liturgy is to be offered, that priests have no authority to change the Mass, and that bishops and bishops' conferences have authority in certain limited areas. The bishops' conferences can make adaptataions, but they must be approved by Rome: "Adaptations which are judged to be useful or necessary should when be submitted to the Apostolic See, by whose consent they may be introduced" (SC, 40). Furthermore, many of these abuses cannot be justified, because "there must be no innovations [in the Mass] unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them" (SC, 23).

Issue 10: "The elimination of devotions, and even hostility towards those who practice those devotions". The Council praised established devotions, and called for them to be retained and promoted: "Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See" (SC, 13); "Those practices of piety that are commended by the long usage of the Church should be zealously cultivated" (OT, 8). The rosary, the scapular, devotion to the Sacred Heart, First Saturdays devotion, processions, May crownings, novenas, 40 hour devotions, and other "popular devotions" are definitely in "accord with the laws and norms of the Church", and therefore, should be "zealously cultivated".

Issue 18: "Mandatory priestly celibacy should be done away with". On the contrary, the council championed the practice, said it should be retained, and refuted the idea that priestly celibacy is an outdated practice: "The celibate state . . . is a precious gift of divine grace given by the Father to certain souls, whereby they may devote themselves to God alone the more easily, due to an undivided heart. This perfect continency, out of desire for the kingdom of heaven, has always been held in particular honor in the Church" (LG, 42). The Council wanted the practice to continue: "This holy synod asks not only priests but all the faithful that they might receive this precious gift of priestly celibacy in their hearts and ask of God that he will always bestow this gift upon his Church" (PO, 16). In fact, contrary to popular belief, the Council stated that the consecrated celibate state was superior to the married state: "Students who follow the venerable tradition of celibacy according to the holy and fixed laws of their own rite are to be educated to this state with great care. For renouncing thereby the companionship of marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven [cf. Matt. 19:12], they embrace the Lord with an undivided love . . . Let them deeply realize how gratefully that state ought to be received . . . as a precious gift of God . . . [But] let [seminarians] recognize . . . the surpassing excellence of virginity consecrated to Christ" (OT, 10). The idea that celibacy was no longer a wise practice was dismissed: "[Religious shall] not be influenced by those false doctrines which scorn perfect continence as being impossible or harmful to human development and they will repudiate by a certain spiritual instinct everything which endangers chastity" (PC, 10); "Perpetual continence . . . is held by the Church to be of great value in a special manner for the priestly life . . . celibacy has a many-faceted suitability for the priesthood . . . Insofar as perfect continence is thought by many men to be impossible in our times, to that extent priests should all the more humbly and steadfastly pray with the Church for that grace of fidelity, which is never denied those who seek it" (OP, 16). The footnotes cited in these various passages refer to numerous Church documents which support celibacy.

Issue 22: "The preference for 'pastoral priests' over 'old fashioned' and 'rigid' priests". The term "pastoral priest" is often used to refer to priests who do not take a stand against sin and error (and also fail to teach the faith if it means people will be offended). This is not supported by the Council, which said: "Priests must treat all with exceptional kindness in imitation of the Lord. They should act toward men, not as seeking to please them, but in accord with the demands of Christian doctrine and life. They should teach them and admonish them as beloved sons, according to the words of the Apostle: 'Be urgent in season, out of season, reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine' (2 Tim 4:2)" (PO, 6); "They [priests] are strenuous assertors of the truth, lest the faithful be carried about by every wind of doctrine" (PO, 9)

Issue 30: "Women choosing to pursue a career and use day care rather than stay at home and take care of their children". One interesting statement from the Council is this: "The children, especially the younger among them, need the care of their mother at home. This domestic role of hers must be safely preserved, though the legitimate social progress of women should not be underrated on that account" (GS, 52). Even though since "women now work in almost all spheres [and thus it] is fitting that they are able to assume their proper role in accordance with their own nature" (GS, 60), it was the desire of the Council that mothers stayed at home with their children. Women were free to pursue a career, but if that interfered with her role as a mother, it was certainly in conflict with this "domestic role". The Council distinguishes between the sexes: "Let them work as partners with parents and together with them in every phase of education give due consideration to the difference of sex and the proper ends Divine Providence assigns to each sex in the family and in society" (GE, 8).

Issue 50: "We must do something about the problem of overpopulation". This is usually used to justify abortion and birth control. But the ends do not justify the means: "But there are many today who maintain that the increase in world population, or at least the population increase in some countries, must be radically curbed by every means possible and by any kind of intervention on the part of public authority. In view of this contention, the council urges everyone to guard against solutions, whether publicly or privately supported, or at times even imposed, which are contrary to the moral law" (GS, 87).

If Catholics want some of these changes, they should state that. But they should not be citing Vatican II as justification for it - unless they have familiarized themselves with the documents.

Here are the other issues covered in that booklet:

Issue 2: "The view that the Sacrament of Penance is not necessary, because forgiveness can be given directly by God, with the result that some people never go to confession".

Issue 3: "The focus on the Mass as a community meal rather than a sacrifice".

Issue 5: "The use of the vernacular at Mass exclusively, and the labeling of Latin in the Liturgy as 'Pre-Vatican'".

Issue 6: "The exclusive use of modern music and vernacular ordinaries, with the elimination of Gregorian Chant".

Issue 7: "The use of rock Masses, guitar Masses, and Polka Masses, which employ folk music and jazzed up songs".

Issue 8: "The removal of artwork from, and the introduction of modern art into, the churches".

Issue 9: "Modern church architecture".

Issue 11: "The hostility towards Marian devotion".

Issue 12: "That bishops have authority over their dioceses, or that Bishops' Conferences have authority over their countries, and that the Pope has no right to intervene".

Issue 13: "Catholics do not have to assent to the teachings of the Pope unless they are infallible".

Issue 14: "Lay people should share in the governing of the Catholic Church".

Error 15: "Following the decisions of bishops' conferences, even when they are in conflict with Rome, or are not approved by Rome".

Issue 16: "Picking and choosing what councils to accept, and what teachings from the Council to accept".

Issue 17: "The view of the priest as a president of the community".

Issue 19: "The practice in various places of creating a priest shortage so that laypeople may be called upon to usurp the role of the priesthood".

Issue 20: "The call for female priests".

Issue 21: "Priests who dissent from the teachings of the Magisterium".

Issue 23: "The oppositon to catechetical homilies".

Issue 24: "Lay people should have more authority in the parish community".

Issue 25: "The push for the hierarchy to be replaced with a democratic model".

Issue 26: "The elimination of Latin in seminaries and the elimination of Thomism [Thomas Aquinas] in seminaries and Catholic schools".

Issue 27: "The dissent of religious sisters and brothers".

Issue 28: "The removal of habits in favor of secular clothing".

Issue 29: "The laity should be given a greater role of authority in the Church, and be more involved in the decision making process".

Issue 31: "That the Magisterium should accept changes based on the sense of the faithful, which disagrees with many Church teachings and practices".

Issue 32: "The dissent of the laity from Church teaching".

Issue 33: "The Catholic Church is one of many churches which are all equal".

Issue 34: "One can be saved without the Church".

Issue 35: "Seeing conversions from non-Catholic Christian groups to the Catholic Church as being unnecessary; and that praying and working for this endeavor is neither ecumenical nor in the Spirit of Vatican II".

Issue 36: "Ecumenism at the expense of Catholic truth".

Issue 37: "The call for intercommunion".

Issue 38: "It does not matter what religion one belongs to. All religions are equal"

Issue 39: "The practice of integrating New Age and Eastern religious practices into Catholicism".

Issue 40: "Each religion has its own pathway to God, rendering evangelism unnecessary".

Issue 41: "The idea that doctrine should change with the times, because Church teaching is outdated and must change to accomodate modern society and the culture".

Issue 42: "The claim that doctrine develops, and that this should result in a change of what we teach".

Issue 43: "It is fine to dissent from Church teaching if one's conscience is in disagreement with those teachings".

Issue 44: "The interpretation of Scripture and Tradition by theologians and laypeople".

Issue 45: "The Bible contains errors".

Issue 46: "The historical-critical method of interpreting Scripture over the Neo-Patristic approach".

Issue 47: "The call for a change in Church teaching regarding abortion and euthanasia".

Issue 48: "Dissent on the teaching against artificial birth control".

Issue 49: "People should be allowed to divorce and remarry".

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